TRACE: An Interview with Co-Founder Aydian Dowling

TRACE: An Interview with Co-Founder Aydian Dowling

This year we’re teaming up with a number of trans-owned companies to highlight the important work they’re doing and commitment to supporting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Next up is our collaboration with TRACE! We’re running a giveaway from 4/27-4/30 where 2 lucky winners will get a free gender-affirming style from Urbody of their choice.

Check out our exclusive interview with TRACE Co-Founder Aydian Dowling to learn more about the app and ways it can be used as a tool to support gender affirmation.

Tell us about yourself - Please share your name, pronouns, where you’re from/where you live, what you’re passionate about, and identities you claim that will help the audience get to know you.

My name is Aydian (a•den) Dowling, he/him/his. I was born and raised in Long Island, NY. I have lived in lots of places! NY, OR, TX and currently FL. I am also moving shortly, which may be out of FL due to anti-trans laws, but we are still unsure and awaiting the verdict on many bills. I identify as a Transgender Man. I also identify as Queer. 

So now that we know a bit more about you, can you tell us about your business? Why did you start TRACE App?

My business is TRACE, a mobile app for trans/Nonbinary people and our allies to build a community of support. We also have features for those who would like to document their transition, such as photo albums, medical reminders and anniversaries. I began, along with my co-founders, TRACE due to a need to have a safer place to share and talk about being trans- besides the platforms we have today. I was tired of going online at any given moment and being subject to trolls and hate comments as well as feeling exhausted by seeing another debate or hashtag trending that was debating my existence or my right to exist as a transgender person. 

We included the documenting as a fun way to create a timeline of a person's transition, if they choose to document. It can be super validating to look back at where you have begun, to where you are now.

Can you share a bit about your journey of documenting your transition and using social media/technology to find information and community?

Personally, I began documenting my transition through YouTube, as well as photos. I wish I had a place where I could have stored those videos/images because right now they are scattered all over the inter-webs! I used social media to spread information that I couldn't find doing a Google search, and that led me to finding a community. People engaged in commenting on my videos, and I commented back. I learned quickly that building a relationship online made me feel like I wasn't as alone as I thought I was. Since that time back in 2009 I have dedicated my life to building spaces where trans and nonbinary people can go to feel seen, heard and loved. It's what I needed then, and I feel so grateful for our community!

Can you tell us more about the ways TRACE can be an important tool in the affirmation journey for trans folks?

Studies show with the support of just one person in a trans persons life, suicide attempts go down by 40%. With a community where 50% of trans people have attempted suicide, that is a statistic we cannot ignore. Isolation is a killer and we as trans people do not need to be isolated where there is a beautiful and loving community out there. It can be difficult to put yourself out there to find and build community so being able to at least have a chance on a platform like TRACE that is made by and for the community, we hope that will set the stage for more people to get support.

What tips might you give someone early in their coming out/transition and looking for community?

Some tips I would say are to take your time, ask questions, listen to other peoples stories and remember that not all trans/nonbinary people are the same. We all have unique stories, with very similar ups and downs which can be a great connector. It's hard to put yourself out there, it really is. Especially for those who have constantly been un-met in the past, it's not easy! But still, we each deserve a support system and I truly hope you can find the space you feel safe enough to build that community of support. 

As a business owner, how do you find time to prioritize your mental, physical, and spiritual health? What are you doing for self-care and in your free/leisure time?

To be honest, I don't have a great work life balance. I love what I do and I am a bit obsessed! Since my Wife gave birth to our child, 4 years old now, my Son has really helped me and forced me to make that time. I want to be there for my child and my family, which means I need to make space for that balance. I try to take weekends off, and have family dinner each night. I also work out in the mornings to help with my mental and physical health. I enjoy taking my kiddo to the park to play, and going to different events around town to watch him grow and explore. My Wife and I have date nights and we try to be as intentional as possible when we are together. It's not perfect, but I do my best. 

Any advice for someone wanting to start their own business?

My advice would be to start small and build yourself up. You don't need to quit your job and give up everything, but you can start now. Don't wait to begin. Start researching, start building in your spare time, start making friends in the business you are interested in. You'll know when it's time to take the leap. Also, if you get rich- awesome! But from someone who has never gotten rich off of anything I've done, if you love what you're doing- that's amazing all in itself.